By Gerhard Schneibel
The Sandy Springs City Council agreed April 7 to allow Police Chief Terry Sult to apply for a federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant to pay the salaries of 11 new officers for three years but didn’t commit to accepting the money.
The application deadline was April 14.
“The catch is you have to maintain those funded positions for a fourth year,” Sult told the council members.
The grant would pay the officers’ salaries, but the city would be responsible for all training, equipment and overtime costs. In fiscal 2010, the city’s expense would be $292,800, and the federal grant would pay $671,616. In fiscal 2013, the city would be responsible for the entire $833,083 to employ the 11 officers.
The city also would bear all costs for the officers in later years but could choose to cut the positions.
Sandy Springs currently has positions for 125 police officers, but Sult said the number the city needs “has to be somewhere around 145.”
Since his October hire, Sult has added at least eight officers to the force by filling vacant positions.
Dist. 4 Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins said she is “not at all in favor” of the grant.
Federal money comes with too many strings attached, she said. “If you need 11 more officers, come to us. … It’s just a problem any time you get involved with the feds.”
Mayor Eva Galambos disagreed, saying: “We’re all paying for this stuff. … Our taxes are going (to Washington). … Somebody’s going to get the benefit of this.”
The 11 new officers would mainly be assigned to schools, community policing initiatives and the geographic reorganization of the department. But they also would enable the Police Department to place officers with federal task forces with the FBI, Secret Service, Joint Terrorism Task Force, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The grant would help “the organization to evolve from a more reactive organization to a more proactive one,” Sult said. “We’re really moving in the right direction. The key for us is to stay on top of the bubble.”
Since the department was launched in 2006, the police force has seen a 26 percent increase in calls for service. Officers in schools could help combat gang activity, Sult said. “Obviously, what’s going on in our schools is a microcosm of what’s going on in our community, so we want to be proactive about that.”
The grant also would enable the police to start community action programs working with apartment property managers, business associations and truant students.
Sult expects to know the fate of the application in three months, but he said he isn’t sure. “This is going out very rapidly. There are a lot of programs who are applying, so who knows?”